Senate Human Rights Committee investigates Roma evictions in Vsetin|
When the mayor of Vsetin Jiri Cunek evicted several hundred Romany
rent-defaulters from their homes and moved them to a complex of
portacabins on the outskirts of town several weeks ago he set off a storm
of controversy. Some called him a racist, others applauded his courage in
addressing a long-standing problem. On Thursday the Senate's Human Rights
Commission set out to investigate the matter - and concluded that the
mayor had made the right decision.
Before the "big eviction" in mid October Jiri Cunek was little
known at the national level. His decision to get tough with Roma rent
defaulters catapulted him to fame and high politics overnight. He is now a
senator for the Christian Democratic Party - and is seen as a hot candidate
for the post of party chairman - yet he remains a highly controversial
Is the man who wants to lead the Christian Democrats a racist who abused
his power and violated human rights? That is a question that many people
want answered ahead of the party's national conference this weekend.
Members of the Senate's Human Rights Committee who visited Vsetin on
Thursday claim that Mr. Cunek did not violate the law in any way. Josef
Pavlata from the Civic Democratic Party said he was pleasantly surprised
by the new accommodation for the Roma rent-defaulters and noted that the
town hall had gone way beyond its duty by investing in a children's
playground and improving the surroundings. "In terms of quality their
current accommodation is beyond comparison with the previous" the
senator said. Independent Senator Liana Janackova said she believed that
the solution offered was "basically positive" and Milan Bures of
the Civic Democrats went so far as to suggest that this practice could be
used for rent-defaulters in other towns as well.
Overall, a very positive outcome for Jiri Cunek, and one which is likely
to boost his candidacy ahead of the weekend party conference. But there is
no doubt that many people will remain skeptical. Some of the evicted
Romanies are pressing charges of racism against the mayor and evil tongues
say that the Christian Democratic Party has convinced three other members
to run for chairman in the hope that Jiri Cunek will not get elected.